EDINBURG, TX — The 2021 USL Championship season is still young but the Rio Grande Valley FC Toros look to be the real deal after hiring Wilmer Cabrer as head coach and a perfect start to the season just three games in.
And RGV FC let San Antonio FC find out first hand on Sunday night.
SAFC suffered their first loss of the season, falling 1-2 to the Toros (3-0-0) at H-E-B Park. San Antonio fell to 6-6-5 all-time against their in-state rivals, who dominated the game from the opening whistle.
Goals from Wan Kuzain and Christian Sorto in each half were the difference in the match combined with a solid defensive performance from the Toros backline. Kuzain put the Toros up just before halftime as he weaved his way through the SAFC defense and beat goalkeeper Matt Cardone with a low shot in the 42nd minute.
That goal from Kuzain would mark the first time SAFC trailed in a match this season and they would not be able to leave the Valley with a point.
RGV extended their lead to two goals after halftime thanks to Sorto beating Cardone low off the feed from James Murphy in the 57th minute.
SAFC won their season opener 3-0 against Colorado Springs FC and led 2-0 against Real Monarchs before ending their match with a 2-2 draw. San Antonio would not be able to find such traction in Edinburg.
San Antonio’s lone goal of the match came with just over 20 minutes remaining when Santiago Patino finished off a blocked shot attempt by Marcus Epps from close range in the 68th minute.
Here are three takeaways from Sunday’s loss in Edinburg:
The Toros look like the real deal
If Sunday’s game is anything to go by, these RGV FC Toros look like they are the real deal. A year after finishing the 2020 season at the bottom of the Western Conference Group D standings with a 2-9-3 record and nine total points on the season, this club has made changes.
The Toros’ first two matches of the season saw them earn 1-0 victories over New Mexico United and the San Diego Loyal. Sunday night is the first time they have given up a goal in three matches and first time they have scored multiple goals in a match this season.
Cabrer’s system is working through the first month of the season. Sunday night saw RGV FC rack up 73 percent possession in the first half and that rattled SAFC, who collected three yellow cards in the opening 45 minutes.
“We’ll learn from this experience,” SAFC Head Coach Alen Marcina said. “We’re confident as a collective that we’ll get this right and we’ll continue to remain focused and resilient, and now we look to start a new winning streak on Saturday against the Legion.”
Santiago Patino is still hot, so that’s a positive
In SAFC’s opening match of the season, Patino netted a hat-trick for the home side. That was the first sign he would be a special player this season.
He did not find the scoresheet in last Saturday’s draw against Real Monarchs but he did on Sunday, giving him four goals in three matches.
“For any striker, when you’re scoring goals confidence is very high,” Marcina said. “Santi is a very important player to this team; he’s very committed to both sides of the ball. There’s a reason he wore the captain’s armband tonight and I know he’s going to continue to be hungry to contribute to this team.”
With Patino being a main focal point of the San Antonio offense, the real question is who will join him in helping out the offense? The good news is SAFC got Jose Gallegos back after he missed the first two matches with a lower body injury. It is only a matter of time before he gets going.
Despite the loss, SAFC still find themselves in good shape with points in three of their first four matches. One issue four matches in is SAFC’s defense. They are giving up an average of 1.3 goals per game.
With so many new pieces that will be a key point of focus for Marcina as he prepares his squad for two straight home matches before a month on the road beginning in June.
“It was a war and we knew it was going to be a battle coming in here, but it’s going to happen,” SAFC Defender Sam Gleadle said. “We’re going to lose some games and sometimes you don’t play well, but now we have to analyze because we have another test on Saturday. We’ll move on and reflect on it and be better next time.”
San Antonio FC (1-1-1, 4 points) on the season and will return to the pitch next Saturday when they face Birmingham Legion FC (1-1-1) at 7:30 p.m. at Toyota Field.